Vancouver Giants' James Malm (#14) and Johnny Wesley work to get the puck behind the net from Portland Winterhawks' defenceman Matthew Quigley during the Giants 5-1 loss at the Langley Events Centre on March 1.

Vancouver Giants' James Malm (#14) and Johnny Wesley work to get the puck behind the net from Portland Winterhawks' defenceman Matthew Quigley during the Giants 5-1 loss at the Langley Events Centre on March 1.

Coach looking for competitiveness

Players have eight games to show Giants coach better effort

It has not been a pretty two months for the Vancouver Giants.

Since early January, the Western Hockey League club has been mired in a horrendous slump, winning just two of their past 24 games (2-20-1-1).

The most recent of those losses was Wednesday night when they dropped a 5-1 decision to the Portland Winterhawks.

Theoretically, the Winterhawks are the team the Giants would be chasing down for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, if they were still in the chase.

That dream officially ended in late February when Vancouver was officially eliminated from post-season contention, the third straight spring they will watch the WHL playoffs from the sidelines.

Eight games — including a pair this weekend in Portland against the Winterhawks — remain in the Giants 2016/17 campaign.

Rookie head coach Jason McKee — who won six consecutive Alberta Junior Hockey League division titles with the junior A St. Albert Saints before joining the Giants — wants to see his players show some competitiveness.

“We are looking for competitive people. And this is a very good test to see where we are at and tonight we didn’t have very many competitive guys,” he said.

“Moving forward we have to build this team around guys who are competitive.”

In the team’s most recent loss, they mustered just 18 shots on goal — with half of those coming in the third period after the coach said they “riled some feathers there and got some guys going in the third” — while allowing a staggering 56 shots by Portland.

“By no means do I expect us to go out and score six goals every night but I think we are a team that is capable of getting two or three and defending and tonight we didn’t do that,” McKee said.

Part of the problem is injury related as the team is missing several regulars.

That has meant players are getting opportunities on the ice that may not be warranted but since the team is hamstrung by who is available, the coaching staff has no other option.

“Guys are getting a lot of opportunity that maybe isn’t deserved at times,” McKee said.

“For me as a coach you would sure like them to be a lot more deserving, but it is what it is.”

Following the trip to Portland, Vancouver is on the road next weekend in Kelowna and Kamloops before returning home to host the Victoria Royals on March 14.